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Even the Strongest People Are Carrying the Heaviest Weight in Their Hearts: Gabrielle’s Story

This Friday, we are benefiting the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention with the help of Alex and Ani in Westport, who will donate 15% of sales from 5 to 7 P.M. In 2010 (the most recent year for which data are available), 38,364 suicides were reported, making suicide the 10th leading cause of death for Americans. In that year, someone in the country took their life every 13.7 minutes. 

Her Campus Fairfield follower, Gabrielle LaSpina graduated Rutgers University last year and currently advocates at universities in the area for suicide prevention. After learning about our event, she wrote a letter to us in hopes of reaching as many people as possible to enhance the devastation of suicide and raise awareness for suicide prevention:

“I didn’t want to die, but I didn’t want to live feeling that pain anymore.” In my experience advocating for suicide prevention and anti-bullying at a local college, this quote came from a strong, admirable student, who made an unsuccessful suicide attempt, and will reside deep in my heart forever.

A life ended in seconds pierces countless lives in the minutes, days, and years to follow. The feeling of wanting, wishing, and waiting for the time lapse between disbelief and reality to slowly pass, in the hope that you’ll wake from a horrible nightmare and return to the life you once knew, never goes away. In your subconscious, you know your definition of happiness however, the depth of your smile and the way you used to belly laugh will never be fulfilled in the way it was when that person was alive. But, the true heartache lies within the family, friends, acquaintances, and even sometimes the strangers whose lives must go on with a gaping hole in their hearts.

Death on every level hurts deeply because of its permanence. The suicide of a loved one hurts differently because everyone’s immediate thought is that they could have been the one to do something to prevent this from happening. Many times, this is the truth. Many times, suicide is preventable. No, it doesn’t mean that we are each responsible for a person’s choice to end his or her life, but kindness, support, and love certainly go a long way. As human beings living with continual internal and external pressure from a society that glorifies competition, empowerment through financial gain, and superficial standards of perfection and beauty, it’s all too easy to underestimate the simpler aspects of life: the strength of a smile, warmth of a hug, wholeness of a laugh, and the importance of surrounding yourself with people who continuously bring out the best version of you.

My cousin took her life on her 22nd birthday. Facing that tragedy has forever changed my life and opened my eyes to just how common it has become amongst our generation. My cousin and I attended high school dances together, dated boys that were friends, went to the mall, talked about being each other’s bridesmaids, and having children at the same time just as our parents’ did so that our own kids could have the same memories we did growing up together. But now, the devastating reality is that none of those experiences are going to happen. It has recently become a more common and heartbreaking epidemic that can happen to anyone, any family, at any time. This is why it is so incredibly important to provide opportunities for kids, students, and young adults to express their feelings and not be discouraged to discuss their anguish. Suicide prevention and emotional support encourages our generation to release the mental stigma associated with suicide and depression.

When I first learned of my cousins suicide I couldn’t understand how someone who I loved so much, who was loved so much by everyone, could think about ending the purest blessing in the world – life. Now, it has been a little over a year since her passing. I have had time to reflect on the tragedy my family has endured and have also witnessed the alarmingly high rates of suicides reported weekly. While the pain still lingers in my family, I now see how enough negativity and enclosed thoughts can open paths to dark places. There are enough societal pressures to deal with in the world today that are out of our control. However, it is important to believe that humanity can be restored through virtue.  I chose to cope in a different way that forced me to shed a glimpse of positive light on such a traumatic experience. Through speaking out to college students about the pain and sadness of this tragedy, I was able to overturn the normalcy of feeling down and overwhelmed. I hope many people see that the power of positivity, openness, and compassion can save lives. We only have control of the way we choose to use the gifts we’ve been given to help others. Anaïs Nin once said, “We cannot save people, we can only love them.” Though this bears truth, we can only hope that love and kindness can carve the path that will save more people from the devastation of suicide.

To those suffering: You are not alone. There is always tomorrow and most importantly, there are always people in this world who care, love, and live for you.

To the families: Talk, share memories, cherish them, and know that there are unfortunately so many people who are walking in your shoes that you can gain strength from shared experiences.

To the survivors who have shared their personal experiences with me over the past year: Thank you for opening up to tell the rest of the world that the moment you realized you were still here, you developed a new appreciation for life. 

To all:  Even the strongest people are carrying the heaviest weight in their hearts. Only you have control over your words and actions. The smallest act of kindness actually does have the power to change someone’s day.

– Gabrielle LaSpina

The national suicide prevention lifeline is a free, 24/7 service that can provide suicidal persons or those around them with support, information and local resources. 1-800-273-8255

Sources: http://www.afsp.org/understanding-suicide/facts-and-figures

 

Danielle was previously the Deputy Editor at Her Campus, where she oversaw social and content strategy, lifestyle, beauty, fashion, news, and entertainment. Prior to joining Her Campus, Danielle worked at House Beautiful as Senior Lifestyle Editor, directing and producing feature videos and stories. Danielle also served as Snapchat Editor at Cosmopolitan, overseeing the brands daily Snapchat Discover channel. In 2016, she launched Cosmo Bites — which is now the official food and beverage vertical at Cosmopolitan. That same year, Danielle was named as a Rising Star in the digital media industry by FOLIO Magazine. Danielle got her start in digital media by launching the Her Campus chapter at Fairfield University in 2014, where she acted as Campus Correspondent for 2.5 years, before graduating with a degree in English and creative writing. She enjoys wine, food, and long walks through HomeGoods. Follow Danielle on Instagram! 
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